Brigade Commander Focused on Semester Ahead Story by USNA Public Affairs

Twice each year, midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy turnover leadership roles, yielding their responsibilities to their incumbent classmates. At the top of the stack is the brigade commander.

The criteria for the one who’ll wear six stripes on his or her collar isn’t quite set in stone; however, most selectees have high grades and respectable peer rankings. Each company officer nominates one rising 1st class midshipman to attend a board before the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen and Battalion Officers.

Although Midshipman Ian Burgoyne officially assumed this role as the most senior midshipman May 23, he has only recently begun to fully exercise the responsibilities of his post at the onset of the academic year.

Photo by Midshipmen 1/C Jeffrey Kramer

“I’m definitely humbled by the shoes I step into, the people I represent and the task at hand,” said Midshipmen 1st Class Ian Burgoyne, from Darien, Connecticut.

As brigade commander, Burgoyne will lead more than 4,400 midshipmen during the course of the USNA 2018 fall semester. He is expected to execute policy, manage brigade efficiency, monitor morale, and is accountable for brigade conduct.

“Sometimes things will be hard but I know that I'm surrounded by a great team,” said Burgoyne. “I’ve got a great staff.”

Photo by Midshipmen 1/C Jeffrey Kramer

Burgoyne will also act as liaison to the Commandant of Midshipmen, reporting successes or deficiencies and recommending future courses of action. Voicing his excitement to execute his strategy, he described a priority objective on the minds of leadership.

“It's refocusing on the little things - professionalism and upholding standards,” said Burgoyne. “We read a letter from Secretary Mattis about how the lethality of our fighting force is going to come down to the discipline of our small units. It may seem that a room standard or a uniform standard seems far removed from winning wars and accomplishing missions overseas, but it's actually a direct correlation. If you can’t get the little things right to begin with, how do you expect to get them right when you're under pressure, under fire and under stress?”

Photo by MC2 Nathan Burke

Burgoyne said he hopes to impress a three-tier approach upon his fellow classmates:

“First, knowing our sphere and knowing who we influence the most - Then being really deliberate about building the right kind of relationships with those people.”

“The second step is to be a teammate, a friend, a mentor and a resource, but to also hold each other accountable to standards and goals.”

“Lastly is passing the ball. That means developing those around you and allowing them to grow. And maybe sometimes taking a step back, coaching from the sidelines.”

Burgoyne attributes his leadership style to his sports experience.

Photo courtesy of Midshipman 1/C Ian Burgoyne

“I’m a varsity lacrosse player and that's probably been one of the biggest formative experiences I’ve had in terms of leadership here,” said Burgoyne. “When I stepped into a role as a freshman, I looked up to the seniors of the Class of 2016 and they really had a huge impact on me. We try to set this mindset in the lacrosse team of being tough, being accountable and not complaining–just being a good teammate at the end of the day.”

Burgoyne said his experience as a Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education (SHAPE) peer educator also prepared him for his new leadership role.

“I’ve been a peer educator since my sophomore year,” said Burgoyne. “It pushed me to learn something new, learn difficult, challenging material and be an example of respect and positive culture. That’s what SHAPE is all about. It’s prevention through education and it starts with us as SHAPE peer educators in our interactions with other people and midshipmen.”

Burgoyne also challenges brigade leadership to help build a foundation for future leaders.

“Leaders build leaders,” Burgoyne said referring to a slogan from a book he read. “You're only doing your job as a leader if you're building up the people behind you who are going to assume your role.”

Photo by MC2 Nathan Burke

He also stressed the importance of communication throughout the ranks, especially from the top down.

“I think the biggest responsibility is having patience and providing the whys,” said Burgoyne. “Some people on the lower levels of the third and fourth class might not see the bigger picture. They might not see what I see. And they might question or be reluctant to do things that are annoying or tough. It’s our responsibility to be able to provide the why. And hopefully be able to answer questions or provide guidance and intent to their commanders.”

Burgoyne challenged the Class of 2022 to stay motivated.

“Keep grinding,” said Burgoyne. “Plebe Summer is a long 50 days - It's tough, it’s definitely arduous, but now you have the real task of plebe year. As 4th class you're not going to be expected to be an extremely influential leader, but there are still ways to influence your classmates in positive ways: through your example, through your hard work and through knowing and doing your job well.”

Burgoyne then went on to explain a source of his motivation.

“The legacy of being here is something that's pretty inspirational,” said Burgoyne. “Look at people like Travis Manion, Brendan Looney, who have given their life; who have come from the Naval Academy and selflessly sacrificed for their country and for their brothers and sisters in arms. Those are the type of people who inspire me. And it's always grounding to think they were here in our shoes.”

Burgoyne asks his fellow midshipmen to understand that as he and his staff step into new roles, their focus will be what’s best for the brigade.

“That’s not always going to be the easy way,” said Burgoyne. “And it’s probably not going to be the path of least friction with our midshipmen body, but we want to focus on the little things and be brilliant in the basics. I think it will be a unique challenge in pure leadership to motivate not just the class of 2019, but for the entire brigade to take that on.”

Burgoyne looks ahead to service selection this fall where he hopes to begin a path toward becoming an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer.


Photos by Midshipmen 1/C Jeffrey Kramer, MC2 Nathan Burke and courtesy of Midshipmen 1/C Ian Burgoyne

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